BRADENTON -- Bradenton's Dotti Giles was told she looked like a pioneer woman Sunday wearing a long dress and a bonnet on her head at the 1914 Cracker Christmas -- the annual event produced by the Manatee County Historical Commission.
Giles replied without a pause: "I am a pioneer lady."
Giles said she feels she was born 100 years too late. If she could choose her pioneer place, it would still be Florida, she said.
They've been celebrating Christmas pioneer style since 2009 at Manatee Village Historical Park, 1404 Manatee Ave. E., Bradenton.
Her husband, Frank Giles, who works for the Manatee County School District
and son, Chris Giles, 15, a Braden River High School student, would have fit in, too, she said.
"Things were simpler then," Giles said. "Everything was clean. The progress we have made has really dirtied the world."
Surviving alongside Seminoles would not be a problem, Giles said.
"We would trade with them," Giles said.
The lack of modern restaurants, department or grocery stores would not bother her, she said.
"I would make biscuits," Giles said, and use her homestyle smokehouse to preserve meats.
Giles, who owns custom-made Bonnets by Dotti, sells her bonnets and aprons at events such as 1914 Cracker Christmas. Sunday was typical as she worked among roughly 25 vendors, artisans and organizations serving crowds of more than 300 on a cool and comfortable December day.
"I admire her," visitor Jan Golbois said of Giles, whom she knew from when they worked together at the Manatee County jail.
Pioneer sights and sounds were plentiful.
Father Christmas, a Victorian Santa dressed in flowing robes rather than a red suit, set up shop in the Bunker Hill School House at the park and children had their pictures taken with him.
Southeast High School's Chamber Orchestra, directed by Joe Downs, played 18th century arrangements. Bashaw and Jesse P. Miller elementary schools performed "An All-American Christmas."
The Gulf Coast Sandpiper Barbershop Chorus EZ Keys Quartet strolled through the park and sang. Palm View First Baptist Church had the crowd singing along to seasonal songs.
Bella Danza Ballroom and Dance Academy and Peace Lutheran School's Junior Chimes also performed.
Many visitors stopped at Cindy Walter's Old Tyme Arts & Crafts table where she teaches crafts, including weaving rugs with a big wooden needle.
"Pioneers made rugs using deer points or long leg bones for the needle," Walters said. "We reproduce them out of wood."
Walters said she would flourish in an time before clothing departments. She can tear down old wool sweaters and make rugs and purses, among other goods, out of them.
"In pioneer days, each child had to learn to weave," Walters said.
In the winter when it was cold, pioneers spent their time making baskets, said Jake Jacoby, who still makes baskets and brooms the pioneer way, by rendering long strips of wood.
"They would harvest trees," Jacoby said.
Chris Brown, special events coordinator for Manatee Village Historical Park, and her crew of volunteers, decorated the park and its buildings pioneer style with old toys and ornaments and gingerbread men.
"We even had a guest blacksmith named Peter Chamberlain selling his wares," Brown said.
Volunteers such as Betsy and Jack Schack were the most modern sight of the day as they encouraged adoptions at the Manatee County Animal Services booth.
Michael Lubrano, a retired New York policeman cooking hamburgers at Cracker Christmas for Parrish's Kiwanis of North Manatee, saw a female pit bull named Fudge and fell in love at first sight.
"We have five kids, three at home, and my wife and I were just talking about getting a dog," Lubrano said. "Then I saw Fudge. Just look at her. She's gorgeous."
Fudge would have been a good name for a dog even 100 years ago.
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-748-7072 or contact him via Twitter@RichardDymond.